Posted tagged ‘kale & polenta’

Thank Goodness for the Ham…

December 20, 2011

Until Sunday, I was a dinner party virgin.  I had never cooked for more than 3-4 people without assistance from someone with more culinary skills than I possess.  But, on Sunday, we invited some of our dearest friends (plus their 3 kids) and Amy’s parents over for dinner.  Was I nervous?  No.  Well, okay… a little.  But mainly because 1) kids can be finicky eaters, 2) I have never cooked for Amy’s mom, who happens to cook for friends and extended family all the time, and 3) I am the only vegan in the group, but I was determined to only cook vegan food–I wanted to be able to eat everything on the table for a change.

Saturday night, I scrolled through endless recipes online.  I had decided to go with a vegan meatloaf as the main dish (which, in retrospect, seems really crazy to serve to omnivores).  I was going to do mac & cheeze, but decided against it; mac & cheese is like a religious experience to a kid.  There is no faster way to get them to turn on you than to tell them that they are having one of their favorite foods, then serve them something they barely recognize because  OOPS! YOU DON’T EAT CHEESE.  So, I opted for mashed potatoes, instead.  I make a mean mashed potato.  The potatoes were also the only thing on the menu (besides the salad) that I had made before.  And, finally, I decided on Polenta with Balsamic Kale & White Beans as my green side.  Whew!

How did it go?  You are so kind to ask.

In total, I spent 3 hours in the kitchen.  When I look back on the experience, I really have no idea why it took so long.  But I got everything on the table at the same time, all of it was still warm, and most of it had all the ingredients… most.

The meatloaf should have been called something else.  Maybe a harvest loaf?  There was nothing meaty about it.  There were pieces of carrots in it, for Pete’s sake.  The main ingredients were tempeh, brown rice and bread crumbs.  Mmmm…. grainy.  Look, I know where I went wrong:  meatloaf was my favorite food as a kid.  I just wanted to try to replicate that.  And the recipe came from a reputable chef.  Apparently, a chef that has a mad love affair with carrots.  And grains.  I should have bought Boca crumbles (vegan!) and used an approximation of my mom’s recipe for meatloaf.  It has ketchup, a piece of bread… and a conspicuous lack of carrots.  Plenty of vegetarians & vegans would have loved the meatloaf that I made on Sunday.  But it wasn’t for me.  What did the omnivores think?  They ate it.  But they are nice like that.  I think some  of them may have pushed it under their mashed potatoes.  I wouldn’t blame them.  And they ate the ham that my mother-in-law mercifully brought over.  I have never been so delighted to see a ham in my life.  For real.

The biggest hit was the polenta and kale dish.  None of my guests had ever even tried kale.  In fact, they looked at it as if it were highly exotic and kept repeating “kale” (yes, like aliens).  And every person at the table asked me at least once what polenta was.  But they loved it.  Loved.  They even asked for the recipe.  Win!  The polenta makes it a really kid friendly dish.  And, since the balsamic is drizzled on at the end, you can control how much goes on each serving.  I did leave out the white beans, completely on accident.  The recipe works fine without them, but I will add them in next time.  In fact, next time I make this, it will serve as the main dish.  It really is that good.

What nuggets of wisdom did I take away from this experience?  1) Try out recipes before serving them to unsuspecting people.  2) Mashed potatoes are a crowd pleaser.  3) Kale is apparently very fun to say.  4) Sometimes it is okay to let your mother-in-law go ahead and bring that ham over.  Just saying.